Washington: A monster snowstorm that could bury the American capital under more than two and a half feet of snow swept across the US EastCoast with 85 million residents in its path, bringing the region to a virtual standstill.
Governors in at least 10 states — Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky — declared states of emergency Friday as the snowstorm began.
With the weatherman warning that the epic storm dubbed “Snowmageddon 2016” would last for 36 hours until early hours of Sunday, travel was disrupted in at least five major airport hubs, with over 7,600 flights cancelled on Friday and Saturday.
The ripple effect extended to Los Angeles International Airport, with 86 cancelled arriving and departing flights, according to CNN.
By Friday evening over 130,000 people had lost power as Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York faced blizzard conditions with winds of up to 50 miles an hour.
Cities from Nashville in Tennessee to New York started emergency operations to respond to what the National Weather Service deemed a “potentially crippling winter storm.”
The Washington region`s mass transit system took what officials called an “exceedingly rare” step of shutting down for the weekend.
“We have a forecast that we haven`t had in 90 years,” said Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“It has life and death implications, and (people) should treat it that way,”
she said warning residents to “hunker down, shelter in place and stay off the roads.”
President Barack Obama put off a White House ceremony where he was to award medals to scientists and technology innovators, including an Indian-American scientist.
The winter storm forced postponement of hundreds of events — including the National Basketball Association games in Philadelphia and Washington.
“The real teeth” of the storm will be after midnight through Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service tweeted. “Heavy snow, increasing winds, lightning threat.”
The storm could approach the 28 inches in January 1922 that ranks as Washington`s snowiest storm and is likely to easily surpass the highest recent snowfall, 17.8 inches that fell in February 2010.
As night fell, most streets in Washington region that is home to 6 million people were deserted, restaurants were dark, and downtown streets normally busy with rush-hour traffic were eerily quiet.
Virtually all institutions and attractions in and around the capital region – including the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo – said they would be closed through the weekend.
The US national railway service Amtrak said it hoped to operate on a reduced schedule along the Northeast Corridor line.
In New York, where blizzard conditions are expected to hit early Saturday and bring 12 to 18 inches of snow, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents to use mass transit and to stay home as much as possible.
“Unless it is urgent, stay off the roads,” he said. “It`s as simple as that.”